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Getting to know your Compiler


In the beginning


The history of Visual Basic starts back in the 1960's when Basic (Beginner's All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction) was developed and ran on big main frame computers. Back in those days the languages were acient and just being developed but, they were verry useful in their day. The origional basic was created to teach people how to code with an easier language before getting into more large scale languages such as cobol and assembly. After a few years, Microsoft developed Dos (Disk Operating System) for IBM's New Personal Computer. IBM released a version of BASIC with PC-Dos called BASIC-A. As a result, for non IBM computers, Microsoft released an identical version of MS-Dos called GW-BASIC. Since GW-BASIC was only an interpreter, incapable of compiling executable programs, Microsoft provided another product for use in compiling BASIC programs, called QuickBasic. QuickBasic was a revolutionary update to the language featuring true structured programming with callable procedures instead of line numbers. The free version of QuickBasic, released with later versions of MS-DOS, was called Q-Basic.

Alan Cooper is reguarded as the father of Visual Basic because he developed the first working prototype of a drag-and-drop programming environment with a toolbox of widgets (controls). Cooper's width toolbox was the key to his recognition in this respect. Cooper's program was called Tripod, and he had the opportunity to show the program to Bill Gates (who, in case you only recently landed on Earth, is the chairman of Microsoft) back in 1988. Gates apparently loved the program and offered to buy it from Cooper. The new Microsoft product was code-named Ruby, and the rest is history. Oddly enough, Microsoft stripped the widget toolbox out of Ruby and shelved Tripod. Only later did the development team ressurrect the concept of plug-in widgets, per Gates' insistence. Had the team not done this, Visual Basic would have likely failed as a development tool. But since developers has an opportunity to add their own widgets to the drag-and-drop toolbox, Visual Basic had an edge over other visual languages.

History of Visual Basic


Each new version of visual basic has been significantly more powerful than the last, and has been released to the greate fanfare and acclaim. Later versions generated almost as much fervor as Microsoft's Windows operating system and Office products. In the following, I have included a short description of each version of visual basic.


Visual Basic 1.0. - The first official version of visual basic (code-named Thunder) debuted in 1991. It was acually a combination of QuickBAsic and Ruby, ad could be used to create Windows programs with a simple drag-and-drop interface and instant interpreted runtime. This was Microsoft's first visual language, and its drag-and-drop control toolbox and event-driven programming model allowed programmers to create Windows 3.0 programs without using clumsy the Microsoft C compiler that ran under MS-DOS.


Visual Basic 2.0. - This version was released in 1992 and greately helped the language grow in populatity. Visual Basic 2.0 featured ODBC ( Object Database Connectivity - a database driven standard) support, MDI ( Multiple-Document Interface) forms, object variables, and a new Professional edition.


Visual Basic 3.0. - This version came out in 1993 and had several new advancements, including integration of the Access JET database engine, OLE ( Object Linking and embedding) automation, and rudimentary reporting.


Visual Basic 4.0. - This version, which debuted in 1995, added support for COM ( Componet Object Model) components, including support for ActiveX DLL and OCX files. Visual Basic 4.0 was a hybrid version, supporting both 16-bit Windows 3.1 and 32-bit Windows 95. The most significant new feature of visual basic 4.0 was the addition of classes, which gave visual basic programmers a taste of the object-oriented programming world.


Visual Basic 5.0. - This version was released in 1997 and added additional support for COM with the ability to create Custom ActiveX controls ( where as visual basic 4.0 only allowed you to use them, not create them). It was directly aligned with Microsoft's new focus on internet development. Visual Basic 5.0 also included a native code compiler, resulting in much faster programs, and added the WithEvents statement.


Visual Basic 6.0. - This version came out in 1998 with great success and achieved widespread acceptance, pushing visual basic to the top position in development tool popularity. Visual Basic 6.0 offered some spectacular new features ( particularly involving databases), including the Data Enviroment for creating database connection classes, WebClasses for Internet Development, windowless controls, and a scaled-down version of Crystal Reports.


Visual Basic.Net. - This version was released in 2002 and might be thought of as Visual Basic 7.0. this version is a grand departure from previous versions of visual basic and is comprised of more than just new features. Visual Basic.Net revolutionizes the language and is a complete rewrite of the compiler ( which is shared by other Visual Studio languages). In fact, it might be argued that Visual Basic.Net is not even really Visual Basic any more, and that Visual Basic 6.0 was the last true version.

Downloading the Latest Service Pack


It is an unfortunate fact that most software companies release buggy programs. Despite the earnest effort of the most comprehensive quality assurance ( QA) teams, bugs are inevitable. Given the real complexity of the Visual Basic compiler and IDE ( Integrated Development Enviroment), it is given that bugs will be fixed and features added over time.

Microsoft's solution to bug fixes and feature requests is to release periodic Service Packs. At the time of this writing, the latest service pack of Visual Studio 6.0 is Service Pack 5 (SP5).Since the download link for this pack may frequently change, you can go to http://msdn.microsoft.com and perform a search for "visual basic service pack" to help you locate the latest version.

Getting Help Using Microsoft Developer Network


You can invoke MSDN by hitting F1 on your keyboard or, you can start MSDN from the program menu. Once inside MSDN, if the result of your initial help invocation does not return a helpful result, you can click the index tab and type in a keyword, which usually works for finding help on a topic. depending on the options you selected when you installed MSDN, you might have access to all of the Windows API ( Windows Application Programming Interphase) from here. If you elected to leave out most of the MSDN options, then you can simplily insert the correct MSDN CD-ROM when you search for help on a topic that was not installed but is listed in the index. The primary strenth of MSDN is that it effectively replaces anentire library of Windows API ( Windows Application Programming Interphase) reference book and includes countless tutorials that are invaluable when researching a topic.



1 comment

Article Console

Article by:

Silver Curry


Date: 2003 Dec 27


1 comment

Latest comment


by: Ben

This is some good info, thanks!

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Copyright © 2002 - 2004 Eric Coleman, Peter Kuchnio , et. al.
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